4 targets of intimate partner violence by proxy

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4 targets of intimate partner violence by proxy

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Abusers aim to exercise undue power in their intimate relationship. Because the victim is the direct target of this desire for power, they are most often the target of the violent behaviours as well. However, an abuser who wants to affect a victim may also choose to strike elsewhere in order to hurt them. This is what is known as indirect violence or violence by proxy. Very common in situations of intimate partner violence (IPV), this strategy is extremely effective because it targets those who are dear to the victim, or who have power over their situation.


The fact that the abuser creates a climate where the other parent is forced into submission is a form of child psychological abuse in itself. Moreover, some children can also be directly targeted by the abuser in a bid to hurt the victim. For example, they may be threatened or assaulted when the abuser tries to force the other parent into submission. Parental alienation, the act of manipulating a child to interfere with his or her relationship with the other parent, is also a common aspect of indirect violence via the children. After the separation, indirect violence involving the children may sometimes result in the victim returning to the abuser in order to protect them. 

Family pets

Pets may be threatened or subjected to acts of animal cruelty by the abuser, as a means to force the victim into submission . An abusive partner may also deprive the victim of the presence of a beloved pet (or threaten to do so), by forcing them to get rid of the animal, letting it escape, having it euthanized, or worse. The presence of pets who are at risk of reprisals can make victims hesitate to leave out of fear that her animal will pay the price of their decision.

3 - Family and friends

Family, friends, colleagues and neighbours are often victims of skillful manipulation. By lying and presenting them with a biased image of reality and of the victim, the abuser tries to influence them against the victim and to discredit the victim in case she confides in them. Elderly parents living in the family unit and who support the victim in exercising power over their own life are particularly vulnerable and can also become victims of the abuser's violence in an effort to influence the victim. They may be the subject of threats to «kick them out», to no longer offer them care related to a medical condition and may even be subjected to physical violence. 

Advocates and professionals

Those who work in the psychosocial and legal fields are particularly affected by violence by proxy. Because of the manipulation and lies they are subjected to, it can be very difficult for them to accurately assess the situation, hear the victim's version, and develop a positive relationship with them. Unfortunately, this type of indirect violence can have devastating consequences on the victim's life, especially when it comes to child custody and divorce.

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Bien que la violence conjugale touche majoritairement des femmes, elle peut aussi toucher les hommes et les personnes issues de la diversité sexuelle et de genre. Les services de SOS violence conjugale sont offerts à toutes les personnes touchées par la problématique.

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